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Ask the Experts

My Fourth-Grader Complains About Another Student

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator

Question:

My fourth-grader comes home complaining about the student who sits next to him in class. Apparently they have their desks right next to each other and the boy who sits to the right of him is left-handed and they are always bumping elbows. Also he says the boy is very annoying, because he is always talking out loud and disrupting the class. I told him to bring this up to the teacher, and he says that she knows and does nothing. Today he said the class even got six minutes taken away from their fun time because of this student's outburst. I want to go to the teacher myself and ask her about this, but I'm not sure if I should intervene or let it runs its course. What should I do?

Answer:

It is unfair for any student to disrupt the learning environment of a classroom and for a teacher to allow that to happen. Students who come prepared to learn are at a disadvantage when unruly students dominate a classroom. It sounds as though this teacher does not know effective discipline strategies to keep this child in line. Since your primary objective is your child, you need to be his advocate and be proactive. Go to the teacher and explain the situation. If there is no improvement, ask to meet with the principal. There are a number of books, videos and workshops on classroom management that would benefit this teacher. Hearing this from a fellow educator is important, so leave it to the principal to suggest resources or workshops. If all else fails, ask that your child be moved into another classroom where there is more teacher control.


Kathy Glass, a former middle school teacher, is an educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. She wrote Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction: Creating Standards-Based Lesson Plans and Rubrics (© 2005, Corwin Press) and Curriculum Mapping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Curriculum Year Overviews. Currently she is writing a book with Carol Tomlinson and other authors of the Parallel Curriculum Model. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

07/29/2008:
"My son complains about all the kids in his grade. He continually says they all irritate him. There is a month left of summer and he is having severe tantrums about this. He is going to see a private therapist this week. Nothing seems to make him understand that everybody at school likes him. Help! August isn't even here yet and the whole family is stressed to the max."
01/10/2007:
"I am disappointed, that without knowing the reason for the child's behavior,the teacher's management skills are immediately questioned. Without strong administrative help, guidance intervention and parent support a teacher can be left defenseless.If it is only one child that is disrupting the classroom, it does seem like maybe it is the parent and their disruptive child who might need the support and the message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in our school needs to be enforced."
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